Novato’s Mount Tam Biotechnologies launches lupus drug studies

Brian Kennedy, CEO and president, Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato

JAMES DUNN,

Novato-based Mount Tam Biotechnologies is applying to the Food and Drug Administration to study an investigational new drug to treat the immune disease lupus.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a disease primarily affecting women, especially African Americans and Asians. The body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage, including joint pain and swelling, chest pain, hair loss, sun sensitivity and a “butterfly” skin rash particularly on the cheeks and nose.

There is no cure for systemic lupus erythematosus, most common in women under age 40. Nearly nine times as many women as men have the disease; death rates were highest and increased most among black women aged 45 to 64. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates that 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide have lupus.

The company plans to start manufacturing its TAM-01 drug for lupus within 60 days and plans human clinical trials.

In September 2015 Mount Tam used a reverse merger to become public. In that process, a company that wants to become publicly traded typically buys a defunct publicly traded “shell” company and changes its name to that of the acquiring company. The process, cheaper and faster than an initial public offering, can be tricky, as the acquirer sometimes inherits legal and credit problems of the shell company, whose shareholders may dump the stock after the reverse merger. Liquidity following a reverse merger may be tough to achieve.

Trading in Mount Tam shares (OTC PINK: MNTM) began in September 2015 with a share price range of 71 cents to 93 cents since then, recently at 90 cents. Market capitalization is about $39 million. In March, the company obtained a secured promissory note to borrow up to $1 million, recently increased to $2 million.

The chairman of the board of Mount Tam Biotechnologies is Brian Kennedy, CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.

In March, the company hired Richard Marshak as CEO, and interim CEO Tim Powers, previously of Amgen, became chief scientific officer. Marshak worked previously at Abbott Laboratories Pharmaceutical Products, now called Abbvie. Jim Stapleton joined Mount Tam in May as chief financial officer.